Pole Dancing or Conversion: when heaven becomes hell, & hell, heaven

OPINION: David Kernohan

LGBTIQ+ culture has some of its strongest moments when it takes an aspect of the dominant culture, highlights, exaggerates, and parodies it.

Over the past few months OUTinPerth has been making us aware of an increasing number of conservative and fundamentalist groups and churches being involved in advocating what many of us would describe as conversion therapy.

Though probably unintentional, the Lil Nas X song MONSTERO Call Me By Your Name is a wonderful parody in many ways of conversion therapy and a parody needed with the growing influence of groups such as True Identity, Australian Christian Lobby, Family Voice Australia, National Civic Council, Association for Reformed Political Action, and the Australian Christians.

In the song, the singer enters heaven, but is cast out and pole dances his way down to hell where he lap-dances the devil. It is a beautiful video clip.

So, what is the parody?

Conversion therapy, life after LGBTIQ+ however it is described promises the LGBTIQ+ person heaven. Come to God, God loves you unconditionally, you will be saved, you will be happy. For many people, the promise of unconditional love and happiness, is indeed a promise of heaven, particularly for many LGBTIQ+ people whose experience of love has been conditional.

However, the sting is in the tail. Having been promised unconditional love the person is then told – actually there is one thing you need to change. Your sexuality. For the church, you demonstrate your changed sexuality by either being married in the heterosexual sense of the word or live as a celibate.

What is interesting with the issue of celibacy is even the Apostle Paul acknowledged that celibacy was a calling from God and not for everyone. So, for the church to demand celibacy as evidence of your conversion goes against the Bible they uphold.

The promise of a heaven, where you have to deny a core aspect of who you are is neither loving nor heaven, which is why, perhaps, Lil Nas X decided to pole dance his way down to hell. There before the devil he lap-dances, erotically, powerfully, sensually.

Sex is powerful, it can take us to heaven and to hell. Those experiences we feel cold and can’t wait for the person to leave so we can have a shower and wash the memory of their body from us.

Alternatively, those few seconds where “Oh God” is a spiritual exclamation as our sense of self dissolves into something bigger than we know with our five senses. Sex is, at one end of the sexual continuum, a spiritual experience. A fact known by many of the mystics, whose experience of the divine was organismic.

Rather than be in heaven with a lie, Lil Nas X pole-dances down to hell and there owning his sexual nature in its powerfulness his dances before the devil who could dam him. Yet in the full expression of his sexual nature, he finds the authenticity to be himself and kill what had the power to dam.

On a person level, I relate to this. For years, I feared hell. I feared I would be dammed for being same sex attracted. It wasn’t until I had the courage to say, if I am to be dammed, I will be dammed with integrity and honesty and be myself that the fear of hell began to lose its power.

Will we choose a heaven based on a false denial of who we are? Will we choose a love that is not a love because it does not love our sexuality?

Or will we have the courage to pole dance our way to hell and in the power and eroticism of a healthy sexuality honour ourselves, face our demons and be ourselves?

For those who are pole-dancing, I am right behind you. I am just taking the escalator due to age.

Read more: Conversion Therapy and the Wizard of Oz

Do you need some support?

If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, support and counselling are available from:

QLife: 1800 184 527 / qlife.org.au (Webchat 3pm – midnight)
QLife are a counselling and referral service for LGBTQIA+ people.

DISCHARGED: 9364 6909 / waamh.org.au / [email protected]
Discharged is a trans-led support service with peer support groups for trans and gender diverse folks.

Lifeline: 13 11 14 / lifeline.org.au

Beyondblue: 1300 22 4636 / www.beyondblue.org.au

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